Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: (Montreal) Gold Mountain

(photo by Sam Heath)

Gold Mountain: flat storytelling with visual punch
Liverpool and Montreal collaboration finally comes home
by  Sarah Deshaies

Gold Mountain weaves a tale that many are familiar with: trying to understand a parent’s past in their home country, to rewrite chapters of a book one has not witnessed. 

For David Yee, it means deciphering his father’s haphazard stories and gambling addiction to piece together a complete image of someone forced to leave his home country at a young age.

Fleeing Communist China, Yee Lui seeks out “Gold Mountain”, the land of promise beyond China’s borders, like many young men at the time. He works on ships before settling in Liverpool, the site of Europe’s oldest expat Chinese community. He marries an English woman, has a bundle of kids and runs a laundry. David, or “Dabey” as he calls his son, witnesses his father’s decline and predilection to gamble. 

Bonus: it’s at Théâtre aux Écuries in immigrant-heavy Villeray, making it all the more meaningful.

For playwright David Yip, this story mirrors home; it’s the product of a suggestion that he try to write about his own emigrant father, who settled in Liverpool after years at sea. Over three months, he recorded conversations with his ailing father, then filed them away for 20 years. Colleagues at Unity Theatre in Liverpool persuaded him to reopen them long after his father’s death and compose a play. 
What he realized, and what we will as well, is that it’s easy to condemn actions, but better to simply understand them. This is what Yip, and his stand-in Yee, come to conclude over the course of this show.

At the outset of producing a script, Yip was persuaded to workshop in Montreal with Les Deux Mondes in 2008. The result is a co-production between Deux Mondes and Unity Theatre that has been staged in Liverpool, Sweden, Vancouver, and now here.  Montreal’s staging is in English with French supertitles. Bonus: it’s at Théâtre aux Écuries in immigrant-heavy Villeray, making it all the more meaningful. Yip, who co-wrote the script with Kevin Wong, plays the father figure alongside Eugene Salleh (David) for a simple yet powerful play. 

Part of Deux Mondes’ ethos is to present multimedia extravaganzas, and Gold Mountain fits this mandate exceedingly well. It’s almost a dark, imaginative jewelbox of a show, employing visual tricks, projections, lush soundscapes and amazing gold fabric to take us to Liverpool and China. We have director Daniel Meilleur, his co-artistic director Michel Robidoux and Yves Dubé to thank here for an imaginative concept that bridges sound and visual quite ably.

Gold Mountain is prime visual storytelling, but as a blood-and-bones play it is lacking and flat. It is, however, layered with meaning, personal connection and history, and for a lot of spectators that’ll be the kick right there. 

Gold Mountain is onstage at Théâtre aux Écuries until April 27. 
Running time: 75 minutes.

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